Saturday, December 13, 2008

News from the front lines

So, I'm still unemployed. Nothing new there yet.

I went down and took a test recently that may change that though. I've kicked around the idea of being a police dispatcher a couple of times and had even gone into the Sheriff's dispatch center for the good portion of a shift and shadowed a couple of the dispatchers. (Some departments allow you to shadow an officer for a shift. It's known as a "ride along." Does that make what I did in dispatch a "sit in"?)

I went down on Thursday and took the California Dispatcher 1 POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) test. I feel like I did pretty good, even in the section that I felt weakest on.

A couple words of advice if you ever find yourself about to take this test: Before going in to the test, make sure that you're well fed and caffineted. The test is three hours long. No matter if you take tests fast or if you use every last minute, you're there for three hours. Also, if you have even the slightest hint of a headache before you start, make sure that you take something for it. I'd advise taking something for a headache even if you don't have one, because by the time it's over, you will.

Test results will be back and letters sent out the second week of January. If I scored 50 or higher on the test, I will move on to the oral board portion of the hiring process. I'm not worried about oral boards as I've done them twice already; once for the Search and Rescue team, the other when I had applied for Animal Control with the county. Both times I scored very high among the group of interviewees. Everyone who passes oral boards goes through background checks (again, no problem) and put on an eligibility list and remain eligible for a year. The top two get hired. Hopefully, I'm one of those two.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I just received an email from a YouTube member, requesting that I be their "friend." I've received a couple of these requests from members in the past who were obviously just going through subscriber names using the "friends" request as a promotional tool to get more people to view their videos. While I don't think it's the best way to promote yourself on YouTube, I guess it works for some.

So far, I've ignored the requests, but this time, for some reason, I followed the links to their YouTube page. Turns out that they're using YouTube as a ministry tool to reach out to guys that have just learned that their wife or girlfriend or even daughter (if she's old enough) is unexpectedly pregnant.

I watched the "welcome" video and read the channel biography and was amazed. This is an awesome idea that has the potential to reach millions of guys who are probably scared and don't know what to do or where to go for help. I've not had a chance to watch all the videos yet, but plan to soon.

If you are a guy who's in that same situation, please go check out the videos. Chances are, that there are answers there that may help you through the difficult choices that you now need to make. If you know of a guy who just found out that he's to become father, share this with him. Chances are that you'll both be glad that you did.

God bless.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Election 2008, an Essay

This was passed along to me by a friend of mine. The author has been a lifelong friend of his. Though you might not agree with everything that he says, please take into consideration what he is saying, what he is asking you to do.

Election 2008


Robert W. Sweet, Jr

Commonwealth of Virginia

October 27, 2008

Far too many Americans take the position that all “politicians” are crooks, and therefore there is no reason to vote at all. I do understand that sentiment, but let me offer another perspective. This comes from nearly 40 years of being in elected and appointed, in local, state and federal government positions of public trust.

First, only human beings are elected to public office. NONE of them are perfect, NONE. Those who promote the idea that we will have the Kingdom of God on Earth if we only elect the "right President" have been "smoking something."

Second, governments are ordained of God, and we are to be subject to them, that is the Bible way.

Third, in the case of the United States of America, we did have Godly men who drew up our Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution. They based these documents on the principles of the Bible, and Old Testament Jewish law. The Ten Commandments are prominently displayed on our buildings in Washington, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Congress. In addition, there many federal buildings that have quotes from the Bible that remind us that the Founders of our Republic recognized that to remain a free people, government should be strictly limited. That is what our Constitution does, and we depart from those principles at our peril.

Old Ben Franklin, who was a key player in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, is quoted as saying the following. When he was leaving Constitution Hall in Philadelphia in 1778 a woman asked him what they had produced. He said: "A Republic, Madam, IF you can keep it."

He was referring in part to the Preamble of the Constitution which states:

"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Every official of government must "swear or affirm" to uphold the Constitution in every public office they hold. I have had to take this oath many times in my various Government positions. For me, it was, and is a sacred oath. I took that oath with my hand on the brings tears to my eyes as I write this when I think back over the more that 25 years I spent in Washington, DC, and the many jobs I have held, from the White House, to the U.S. Department of Justice, to the U.S. Department of Education, to the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services, to the U.S. Congress as a staff member. Each and every time that oath was administered I felt the obligation to uphold it, and always "under God."

I know that there are many "politicians" (elected and appointed) to positions of trust who do not execute their responsibilities wisely, or even honestly. But I can also say with certainty, that there are many, many elected officials with whom I have worked at the local, state and federal level who do. I attended Bibles studies with them in the White House, the U.S. Senate that U.S House of Representatives and the Federal Agencies where I worked. We had fervent prayer for our leaders, for both parties, and for the preservation of our Republic.

It is more than the President and Vice President we are electing next Tuesday. We will elect a President and a Vice President true enough, but "WE THE PEOPLE" also will be electing ALL of the U.S. House of Representatives, one third of the United States Senate, at least half of the Governors of our States, and a large percentage of our State Legislators. And will be electing Mayors, Judges, and "dog catchers" too.

When we elect our President and Vice President, as imperfect as they are, we will be giving them the authority to appoint, without any approval from the electorate, more than 3,000 political appointees of their choosing. Those individuals will be the members of their Cabinet who will run the U.S.

Justice Department, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Energy, a total of 13 major agencies and myriads of sub agencies that literally control our daily life right down to our pocket books and our heath care and our courts. Not the least of which is the probable appointment of several Supreme Court Justices who can forever change the nature of how we deal with marriage, abortion, child abuse, pornography, home schooling, prayer, tax policy, national defense, and security, immigration policy, and the protection of erosion of the Bill of Rights that guarantee us the freedoms our nation has cherished and preserved for more than 220 years. When we elect the Members of the House and Senate we will be giving them the authority to appoint or hire more than 25,000 staff members who will run the U.S. Congress. These staffers will write the laws, advise Members of Congress and although unelected themselves will have a profound impact on the everyday life of all Americans.

It is "We the People" who determine our destiny...all Under God...but nevertheless we have our part to play in "keeping the Republic" that has made us the freest nation on earth, or we will authorize our elected officials and their appointees to place us in bondage like much of the rest of the world.

Many, many elections are won or lost by a single vote...democracies rise of fall by the will and the vote of the people.

In the election of 2008 we have choice between Obama/Biden who believe very strongly that government is the answer to all or most of our problems, whether health care, or financial, or social, or our national security. McCain/Palin believes that it is "We the People" who should decide our destiny. In my opinion, McCain/Palin is much more likely to appoint men and women who will preserve our Republic rather than destroy it.

All of these individuals are human. They are imperfect, just as we are, but it is our opportunity, our collective decision as voters to decide which candidates should have such power. It will make the difference between a socialistic nation and one that will continue to uphold the Constitutional principles that this nation was founded on more than 200 years ago. The American Republic has lasted longer than any other Republic in the history of the world, and as Ben Franklin said: "....if we can keep it."

The Oath of Office and the Constitution


I (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

That Oath for me was more than my allegiance to the United States of America….to “defend” her from “all enemies foreign and domestic. It was my solemn charge to pray and exemplify Jesus Christ in all my duties in public office.

I have been battered, bruised, criticized, ridiculed, fired, shouted at, scorned…because of stands I have taken for Christ and for the Constitution. I do not regret one moment of it, and I consider it an honor to have been able to serve. No one likes to be always on the offensive, but that seems to be the way it has been for me over the decades I have been fighting for the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.

One of my good friends during my White House years was a colleague of John McCain when he was in the Hanoi Hilton. Jim Warner spent 7.5 years imprisoned in the Hanoi Hilton. During the years I knew him he walked with a cane because of the torture and abuse he took while he was in prison. He used to come to my White House office to talk quite often, and when he would leave he would always say “Cheer up” because that is what he would say to his prison colleagues who day after day languished without hope of ever being free. I have never forgotten that, and when the times are tough, and the fight is difficult, and even overwhelming I say “Cheer UP!” We have a God who is watching, who has our best interests at heart, and who said he would “NEVER LEAVE US OR FORSAKE US.”

Now, for the sake of our beloved America…VOTE!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The history of coffe as told on

ThinkGeek (stuff for smart masses) has a cool product for the caffeine affectionado: The Handpresso Portable Espresso Maker.

On the item's page, there is the complete, if brief history of coffee. I've shamelessly ripped it off and posted it here for your enjoyment:

It used to be that people would travel for thousands of miles to get good coffee. As the story goes, the plant originated in what is now Yemen. It was popular with the Sufis there for its ability to drive away sleep. Coffee didn’t make it to Europe until 1600 when Pope Clement VIII, despite appeals to ban it. The habit spread across Europe, until the Dutch, sick and tired of paying out the nose to import the stuff from Ethiopia and the Ottoman Empire, illegally smuggled live plants and cultivated them in hothouses in Holland.

Then, in 1720, the French brought the first vines to the Americas. The following weekend, the first Starbucks opened [citation needed].
Check out their site, buy stuff and then tell them that you heard of them here. Then they can consider it free advertisement instead of copyright infringement. (Hopefully that will be enough to keep me from getting sued!)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thanksgiving plans...?

Beth: "So, for Thanksgiving, we're going to Lake Tahoe..."

Nick: "Del Taco?" (link for those of you who don't live in CA)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Interesting video

Now, I'm not one to get into heated political debates, but I do have my opinions on who is the best candidate to be our next president.

Here's something to think of when you cast your ballot: Video Link

It's a long video and could have done without the "Post this everywhere" at the end, but the meat is still there and it's still important.

Let me also say this: I understand that it's not solely Obama's fault. Blame is shared through the whole Democratic Party...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pic of me on our website, explained

In the picture of me on our family website, I'm wearing the CPAP mask that I sleep in. It's hard to really see in that pic, but it's solid plastic and covers both my mouth and nose and has a double strap that connects in the back. As cumbersome as it sounds and looks, it's actually not that bad to wear.

The part that touches my face is a super-thin silicone skirt. The idea is similar to the skirt of a hovercraft in that the air pressure creates the cushion and therefore also the seal. So basically, I sleep with a tiny hovercraft on my face all night.

Of course, since it's made of silicone and is soft and squishy, it's also similar to a fake boob.

While one description will make people scratch their heads in puzzlement, the other will win me the admiration of men the world around. Take your pick. Just don't blame me for your choice.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tinier still...

I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with TinyURL. TinyURL is a free service that will allow you to take a long, ugly and/or complicated URL like the real one for my web page and shorten it down to something easy to remember, like the one I have above. When people click the TinyURL, they are taken to your website (or specific web page). You are able to track the number of people who click through your "Tiny" and see how many people are checking out your website. The "Tiny" will stay active as long as it is clicked on at least once a year. Oh, and did I mention all of this is free?

The really impressive part is this: When I was setting my "Tiny" up, I goofed. (No that's not the impressive part, this is:) I sent an email to the TinyURL people letting them know that I messed up and was wondering if there was any way we could correct it. I sent the email late last night and was surprised to have received an email from them this morning letting me know that it has been corrected and giving me the link to the tracking page as well.

If only more people could provide this level of customer service. I mean, if a place that provides a service for free can support its "customers" like this, don't you think that places that I give money to could step up and be at least courteous enough to offer the same?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Short URL, same fruity goodness

It's a little easier to remember that way.

Scarcity of posts

Yeah, I've been slacking and not posting anything new.

There's a reason for that though. There's not really much new to post. Not until today that is...

I've been trying to put together a graphic design portfolio so I can get a job doing what I like doing (and invested some big money in for school).

Since I've been away from design for the last few years, I have nothing current to show and all my stuff from school is packed in a box that's buried somewhere in our storage closet. That means that I have to start from scratch. Unfortunately that also meant that I had to build a new computer to replace the ancient one that blew up on me some time last May, so it was more like starting before scratch. Fortunately, my parents were generous enough to lend me a little money to put together a modest computer to get started. (Thank you!)

So, I have a computer, now I need to have the all-defining Web Presence. While browsing through the Photoshop blogs that I read, I ran across this tutorial that sparked an idea: Wouldn't it be fun to do a comic book cover for a home page?

The page is still in its rough-in stage. There's not much on it yet other than links to our blogs and a Pay-Pal link (why not?). Right now, the URL is terrible. I'm going to get a TinyURL to make it easier to remember. After all, if I can't remember it, how is anyone else supposed to?

Right now, the page is here. Bookmark it because I don't know if I'll ever be able to find the link again myself. I'll post the new-and-improved, easy to remember link as soon as I get it set up.

Comment and let me know what you think!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Photo time!

Grandma bought Nick two new pairs of shoes last week. We spent a little time running and jumping around in her back yard testing one of them out to make sure that they could run fast enough and jump high enough. They passed.

The shoes.

The speed!

The altitude!

The style.

After making sure that the new shoes were up to snuff, it was time for a little game of catch with Grandma.

Then some soccer...He thought it was pretty funny when he nailed Grandma with the ball!

Grandma went in the house to make some dinner so it was time for a little exploring and relaxing.
Building a rock house.

Relaxing in the evening sun.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I'm sitting here at my parents' house patiently (yeah, right!) waiting for UPS to arrive. I'm stting at the counter/bar in sight of the window, reading through the "Our Collective Wisdom" articles on the website.

The agony is this: I checked the UPS website this morning and it informed me that my package is "Out for Delivery." Next door to my parents' house a lady runs an afternoon program for developmentally disabled kids. Each day school busses come and drop kids off in the early afternoon and a few come back by later to pick them up and take them home. The agony is caused by the fact that those busses sound similar enough to a UPS truck that I find myself glancing out the window every few minutes. It's like I'm watching a very slow tennis game, and frankly, my neck is getting tired.

Another bus just.... no... it's a big brown van.

Now I have to contain myself and not rush the driver...

Ding Dong!

It's mine! My precious.....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

UPS failed me... :(

According to the website that I ordered my CPAP machine from, ground would take 4 days for shipping. The fourth day was Saturday. UPS didn't show on Saturday. It was like a postponement of Christmas. No UPS meant no machine until Monday.

Checking on the UPS tracking page, my shipment is still "On Time" and is expected to be delivered on Monday the 15th.

I'm revoking the UPS guy's near-Santa status. I'm eating the cookies myself.

Friday, September 12, 2008

tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll love ya....

I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve.

I remember watching the news track Santa as he flew across the country, coming ever closer. Now there's a website that you can track him on and see his exact location plotted using the wonderful technology afforded us by the GPS system.

Every chance I get I've been checking the progress of my package as it travels across the country in the back of a big brown truck. Unfortunately, UPS isn't as exacting as the people who planted the GPS tracking system on Santa's sleigh. The last entry was three days ago when it left Texas. Oh, they assure me that it's "In Transit" and "On Time."

Honestly though, I was hoping for "Delivered Surprisingly Early."

Oh well. I guess this gives me time to get cookies and milk ready for the UPS delivery person. I just hope they don't try to land the truck on the roof.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Obstructed Sleep Apnea

About three years ago, I was diagnosed with Obstructed Sleep Apnea (OSA). Basically what happens is that when I fall asleep, my airway closes and I suffocate until I wake up enough that may airway open back up. This happens over and over again all night.

A year ago, I went in for a sleep study where they measured everything from how much I snored, how many apnea episodes I had and how often and the oxygen saturation of my blood, among a ton of other things. I was surprised to find that it only took 15 seconds after I initially fell asleep until I stopped breathing for the first time. I then averaged about one episode per minute.

The test was done in two parts. The first part measured how I did naturally. If it were possible to fail a breathing test, I got pretty close. I averaged about 55 apneas per hour. During the first three hours of the test, I was able to get only 15 minutes of solid sleep.

For the second half, the lab technician came in and hooked me up to a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine and mask. The machine and mask work together to pressurize your airway, preventing it from closing. The second half of the test was the remaining four hours of the study. In that time, I slept about three solid hours.

The rest of that day was amazing! I stayed awake on the train, not only on my way to work, but on the way home at the end of the day (9pm) as well. Usually by 2 in the afternoon, I'm falling asleep. I couldn't believe that I didn't need coffee to stay awake in the afternoon. I never felt like I needed a nap. I wasn't tired.

Unfortunately, shortly after my test, I lost my job (and therefore health insurance) and my chance to get my CPAP machine.

This week, after again loosing my job and my insurance, my mom informed me that she and my dad had been talking about it and had decided that they would purchase the machine, mask and everything for me.

Aside from being married to Beth and having Nick, this has got to be the biggest blessing that I've ever received. Thanks Mom and Dad!

We should be able to place the order on Monday. I'll try to keep up on my status here and bring you along on my journey to the land of wakefulness. In the mean time, I'm going to go take a nap.

Friday, August 29, 2008

...and just when things were getting better...

The past three weeks have been rough. I've been behind schedule at work and things were just starting to look good. All of the sudden, I was almost caught up. It looked like I was going to be able to get back on track and maybe even ahead.

This morning, we had a great announcement: My company won a major section of the upcoming California High Speed Rail line. (California is "on track" (sorry) to get the first Bullet Train in North America. San Francisco to San Diego in about 2 hours!) HNTB is the lead in the section that goes from San Jose to San Francisco and a sub on the Altamont section.

To celebrate, the office bought pizza for everyone and had a little celebration during lunch.

I couldn't help but think, "This is a great Friday: An upcoming three-day weekend, payday, pizza and beer for lunch, and I had some OT banked so I get to take off a little early. Things are looking up."

Not much later though, all that pretty much got flushed down the toilet. I got pulled aside and told that due to budget cutbacks, I was being laid off.

So much for the start of a good weekend. Now it's back to resumes, applications and not knowing if we're going to make rent.

This sucks.

Keep us in your prayers. I know that God has something great in store for us. I just hope that we're patient enough to wait on His timing without getting frustrated.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm not quite dead yet.

It's been more than a week since I've posted last and I'm sure that you're all worrying by now.

I just wanted to write and assure you that I'm not dead. ...though I could use that kind of rest right now. I've spent all day at my desk for the past two weeks, only leaving at the end of the day and for lunch, though I've taken most of my lunches as working lunches. I've not really been out and doing anything and therefore don't have much to write about.

Nick's growing up fast. When I put him to bed the other night, seeing him laying there, he looked like he'd gained at least six inches in the past week. It's awesome watching him develop and learn. He's just starting to understand consequences. I'll ask him "if x happens and y happens, then what?" and he's able to think it through and give me an answer. Truely amazing.

Oh, take a listen to Gaelic Storm. Their last two albums "Bring Yer Wellies" and "What's the Rumpus?" are pretty much all I'm listening to lately. They're a really fun and upbeat band. You've heard them and enjoyed their music whether you realize it or not. They played a small but memorable part in a small-time film from about 10 years ago called "Titanic." They were the band that was playing during the "Steerage Part" scene where Jack and Rose go slumming with the "common folk." They're coming to the Filmore later this year and I'm hoping to catch them there.

Anyhow, I'm behind schedule at work so it's back to the grind stone.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

robrdavis - Networking Guru

First off, my title is "Desktop Support Services." I'm the guy that comes to your desk because your mouse or keyboard stop working. I can install software as needed, but beyond that, I have almost no IT power within my company. I'm not the low man on the totem pole, I'm more like the low man next to the totem pole.

With that said, our office network is down this morning. Something happened with our ISP and due to the way things are set up, if we have no external (internet) connection, we can't access any of our servers, even those that are physically here in the office. I'm using a cellular card in my computer to access the internet so I can keep in touch with our help desk in Kansas City. While waiting for something to happen so we can work again, I'm also surfing the web and posting this to my blog...

One of our managers came to my cube (fortunately, I was checking work email at the time) and asked "So, what are you doing to remedy this network outage?" It took me a while to explain that since it's external, there's nothing that anyone in the entire company can do to bring it back up, let alone little ol' me.

It's amazing what people think you can do if your job is computer related. It's also amazing that people sometimes don't understand that there's a lot more than just flipping a little switch or plugging/unplugging a wire.

I find it ironic that I look at most of these people and think "There's no way I can do what these people do. They're engineers. They build bridges that span huge chasms and can hold up trains. They design airports and freeways and it's their designs that determine how well traffic flows." I just can't get my head around some of the stuff that they do. At the same time though, many of these same people come to me with questions that seem so basic; questions that I could have answered when I was in High School.

I forget sometimes that just because people are smarter than I am in some subjects, that doesn't mean that they're smarter than I am overall. We all have strong areas and weak areas, things we know and things we don't have any clue about.

It makes me feel good to know that generally people are just as dumb as me. It's just one big world of goobers.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Too funny... Too true

Football is a major part of my life. I live it, I breathe it, I eat it for breakfast...

No. I don't. I really could care less. ...or I couldn't care less... Whichever has me caring less, that's what I'm generally doing with football.

Anyhow, tonight is the big Raiders/Niners game. My only concern was that it was going to be taking place at the Oakland Coliseum and I was going to get stuck in the traffic coming back from San Jose. Fortunately, I didn't.

As I was getting off of the train tonight on my way home, I was met by an unusual crowd heading in the direction of the train. I was surprised until I noticed that everyone was wearing black and silver. Raiders fans.

I have to point out that these were indeed your "typical" Raiders fans. Large tattooed bikers with their pony tails, beards and bandannas; wanna-be gang bangers with their baggy pants, oversized jerseys, sideways hats and bandannas; scruffy "I don't fit into any category other than 'typical Raiders fan' guys... you know the type. There were tons of them, all heading into the BART station.

In the middle of this ragamuffin crowd was one clean cut couple, looking very out of place and holding hands as they walked toward the train. She was obviously more than a little nervous. He was trying to look relaxed and be brave for his woman. It wasn't working. He had the look of a man about to face death, knowing that there was no way out.

I thought to myself "Where are they going?" They could have been your typical nine to five commuters dressed for a casual Friday. The only thing is that this is the end of the line for the train and they were heading in the wrong direction.

"Odd," I thought.

That's when I noticed it. He was wearing a red polo shirt. I had to laugh.

"Niners fans... Yep. They're going to die."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Getting older... and noticing it.

I was talking to a friend here at work today and he'd mentioned that he can't play Guitar Hero. "There's too many buttons," he said. We all agreed: all was good in the day of "up, up, down, down, up, up, down, down, A, B, A, B. Start." Guitar Hero gives you different buttons for each of your four different fingers... The X-Box gives you like a hundred buttons plus three joystick-style controllers... When is it going to stop?

My buddy said "I guess I'm getting to that age where video games are getting to be too difficult..."

That got me thinking: "What are the things that make us stop and think, 'Man, I'm getting to be one of those old people who I used to make fun of?'"

I've always been crotchety before my time when it comes to "those darn kids with that infernal racket that they call music." It annoys me to no end when I can't hear my television or the music I'm playing on my house stereo over someone's car when they drive by.

Same goes for Harley Davidson (or similar) motorcycles. "Put a muffler on it for Pete's sake!"

Sagging pants? "When are the kids these days going to learn to dress themselves?"

The list keeps getting longer as time goes on. Soon enough I'm going to be yelling things like "Get off my lawn!" or "Get a hair cut you hippie!" After that comes shorts with black socks and sandals. I'm sure of it.

What do you find yourself doing that makes you stop and wonder "When did I become a cranky old man/woman?"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

That's just wrong...

I've mentioned before that every Wednesday bands come and play in City Center during lunchtime. Today was a pretty good band that sounded like a sort of Punk/Ska/Reggae mix from what little I heard as I walked through.

They finished up their set with "No Woman No Cry" by Bob Marley and did a pretty good job of it. Yes they were white, but it worked. No slo-mo-Irwin happened on stage from what I saw.

What I did get to witness though were two obviously gay guys dancing along and enjoying the song a just little too much...

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm not racist.

I'm not racist. Not by any means. I realize that every race has its fair share of idiots that makes it look bad. Me, I have to claim that idiots like the Klan and Hitler, among many many others make the "white" race look like a bunch of morons. That and the fact that we can't dance, but that's for another posting altogether.

Now the reason that I bring my non-racist mentality up is to pad the real point of this post. It was just one of my random thoughts that I had today that lead to another thought...

As I was walking to Starbucks this morning, I passed a black guy wearing an Obama sweatshirt. This isn't much of a surprise as I'm in Oakland, less than a block away from what I was told is Obama's campaign headquarters. (While I doubt it is/was his main headquarters, I don't doubt that he has/had an office here.)

It started me thinking; how many people are going to vote for Obama just because he's black? On that same note, how many people would have voted for Hillary because she's a woman?

I seriously think that we're going to see a large increase in votes from the black community this election. While it's awesome that people who have never been motivated to vote before are going to get up, go to the polls and make their voice be heard, I'm afraid it'll be for the wrong reason. I'm afraid that people won't be voting for him on the basis of what he stands for or what he hopes to accomplish, but that they will be voting for him because of the color of his skin.

For that matter, I worry about people voting for McCain just because he's white. Actually those people scare me.

The color of a person's skin says nothing about what they can do to help or harm our country. I honestly think that the United States might gain a little favor in the eyes of the rest of the world if we were to vote a black man or a woman (or a black woman!) into office, if for nothing more than showing our country's true diversity and equality among all people.

Friday, July 18, 2008

protest chants

Yesterday a couple friends and I went to Lucky & Lucky (Chinese, surprised?) for lunch.  Directly across the street is the main office for the University of CA.  The maintenance people are outside on strike.  I honestly couldn't tell what for though.

There was the obligatory call and answer chants being lead by someone with a megaphone.  What I heard went something like this:

"Mmhhmmfhala lada bladador!"

"We want Jews!"

Now, the croud was shouting, so they may have been thirsty and I didn't see any iron crosses or swastikas, so they may have been shouting "We want juice," but that's not what it sounded like.

I have nothing against voicing your opinion and making known unfair working conditions.  After all, that's what this country is about:  freedom and rights. 

All I'm saying is that if you're going to protest and have a mass group chant, you need to have a spotter.  Someone who can walk down the street a couple hundred yards or so and come back to tell you "We really need to change this up or we're not going to get a pay raise, we're going to get rabbis and yalmukas."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

White people + reggae = funny!

Every Wednesday, City Center in Oakland, CA hosts a live band to play during lunch.  Today it was a reggae band from San Francisco.

Reggae music makes you want to move.

White people can't dance.

Fortunately I was able to escape with just a few taps of the toe.  Unfortunately there were several of my fair-skinned bretheren who fell victim and were ensnared by the rhythm.  It reminded me of Steve Irwin dodging the attacks of a dangerous pit viper played back at about 1/4 speed. 

I need to remember to bring my video camera on Wednesdays...

I survived...

I survived watching a whole episode of "I Survived a Japanese Game Show."  Honestly, I don't know how.  Or for that matter why.

I guess it was the same sort of morbid fascination that we all have when we pass an accident on the freeway.  You know the kind:  You're stuck in traffic for hours (more like five minutes, but it seems like hours when you're there), getting grumpy and thinking to yourself, "C'mon people.  It's an accident.  Quite looking and drive!"  Then when it's your turn to pass, you find yourself drawn to it.  You have to look.  Your frustration comes to a head when you realize that it's nothing more than a flat tire, there's no gory mess to make you gag, and there's no longer anyone ahead of you and that you've just become one more rubbernecker that's making the freeway look like a parking lot.

It was like that.

I hate "reality" shows.  I've never watched a full episode of Survivor or Big Brother.

Japanese game shows get to me too.  Added to the fact that I don't understand the Japanese language, I also fail to understand why they dress up like chickens or babies and run around falling all over themselves while the host screams like he just got bit in the butt by a rabid dog.

This show combines the worst of both.  You end up having American constestants dressed up like babies (diapers, bibs and all) running around like morons while the host screams in a language they don't understand.  Then when they're done with the game show part, they go back to their living quarters and whine about how great they are individually, but how bad everyone else on their team sucks, before they kick their best teammate out of the game.

The Japanese have an amazing culture, a colorful history and a beautiful country.  For their sake though, someone needs to mount some sort of raid by an elite covert military group to remove all video cameras from the country.  Forcefully if necessary.  For their own good.

I should get some sort of prize for making it through the whole episode.  I didn't even gag.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More from the Search and Rescue front:

This was just posted to our Wilderness Squad mailing list and is important enough that it should be brought to light for the general public.  Not to mention, it's more along the lines of my usual posts.

First a little background:  Two serious conditions that one can face when traveling to high altitude (8000+ feet) locations are known as HAPE and HACE, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema and High Altitude Cerebral Edema respectively.  Both are conditions that are caused by the body's reaction to an increase in altitude without proper acclimitization. 

HAPE is the accumulation of fluid outside the blood vessels in your lungs which leads to shortness of breath, coughing (and pink, foamy sputum), increased heart rate and decreased oxygen levels in the bloodstream and can occur within a few hours of ascent. 

HACE is the swelling of the brain tissue due to the same fluids leaking from the bloodstream into the brain.  Symptoms include headache, decrease in alertness and coordination, weakness, loss of consciousness and coma.  HACE is most likely to occur after a week or more at altitude, but can occur as rapidly as within a few days.

Both are serious and can be fatal if not treated.  The two easiest forms of treatment are rapid descent and administration of oxygen.

Rick Kovar can be proud.  I paid attention in class (which is good since I was serving as the Medical Overhead person on one of the team's High Altitude trainings.)

Proper acclimitization helps in preventing both HAPE and HACE.  Basically once you get above 8,000 to 10,000 feet, you should "climb high, sleep low."  Don't sleep more than 1,000 feet above where you slept the night before.  It's also best to stay a few days at a base camp to let your body become used to the altitude before starting any strenuous activities such as hiking.

So, with all the wonderfulness that comes with altitude sicknesses behind us, let's move on to the reason behind this post:

Excerpts from the Western Journal of Medicine, 1981 February 134(2), pages 173-4:

High Altitude Flatus Expulsion (HAFE)

To the Editor: We would like to report our observations upon a new gastrointestinal syndrome which we will refer to by the acronym HAFE (high altitude flatus expulsion). This phenomenon was most recently witnessed by us during an expedition in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, with similar experiences during excursions past. The syndrome is strictly associated with ascent, and is characterized by an increase in both the volume and the frequency of flatus, which spontaneously occurs while climbing to altitudes of 11,000 feet or greater. The eructations (known to veteran backpackers as “Rocky Mountain barking spiders”) do not appear to vary with exercise, but may well be closely linked to diet…

While not as catastrophic as barotraumas nor as debilitating as HAPE, HAFE nonetheless represents a significant inconvenience for those who prefer to hike in company… At present, we can advise victims that the offense is more sociologic than physiologic.

HAFE should be added to the growing list of medical disorders that are associated with exposure to high altitude. We are planning a prospective study for the summer of 1981.

Paul Auerbach, MD and York E. Miller, MD
You really have got to admire some people and their creative excuses to get away from the office.

A peek into Search and Rescue

Last weekend's plans, for what they were worth went out the window. I don't mind it a bit. It was actually better than the boredom that I was enduring starting on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday, my Search and Rescue team got called out to Yolo County to search for a missing 77 year old woman that was discovered missing on Thursday. She was last seen at on CA-16 after leaving Cache Creek Casino. After two full days searching in 100+ degree heat, our team members were burnt out and new crews from other teams were slated to arrive starting at 0600 on Monday. A third call went out to our team requesting members who had not previously responded. Later that night, another call went out cancelling the call, stating that the subject had been found deceased.

While not the outcome that we had hoped and worked so hard for, we had finally found her and brought some closure for the family and for the personnel that had worked so hard for the past couple of days.

One of the harder things that a searcher faces is the lack of closure that we face in some searches. A subject will go missing, either on purpose or accidentally, and we will put many, many man-hours into locating them. Clues may be found, either physical articles that the subject has left behind, such as a jacket, a food wrapper or a cigarette butt. Witnesses may come forward claiming to have seen the person at this or that location. Footprints may be found and confirmed to be matching those of our subject. The dogs may have hit a definite trail and followed it to where it disappears. The subject's profile will have already been compared to statistical information showing what they are most likely to do, what direction they are most likely to travel and the clues we have found will be compared to that to help us decide if the subject is acting "normally."

Even though we have all this information, the subject can still remain missing; their location a mystery, as though they have been plucked from the planet. The search may carry on for days, weeks. It may have to be suspended, but it will not be stopped until the subject has been located. It's these "suspended" searches that can really wear on you. Fortunately the one last weekend did not have to be indefinitely suspended. Though our subject was deceased, she was located.

You will hear about the local Sheriff's department or the coroner continuing the investigation to determine cause and time of death, but what you won't ever hear is that the SAR teams involved are still doing their investigation as well. Regardless of the outcome, maps, travel routes, terrain features, evidence locations, sightings, resource deployment and much more will all be re-evaluated. The entire search will be evaluated to determine what went right, what didn't go so well, what we could have done better. We will learn what we can from the information that we have collected so we can hopefully do a better job the next time.

One thing that many people don't realize is that as a member of a SAR team, while we are out on a search, you may actually have more information about the case as a whole than we do. That is to prevent us from forming theories about where the subject is or where they were most likely going. If we do that, then we may not focus on our particular search assignment. If a searcher's assignment is in a low priority area heading away from the last known direction of travel and they're 14 hours into a search, their mind may not be fully focused on what they're doing if they've been convinced that the subject was last seen three miles behind them heading in the opposite direction. Fatigue, both mental and physical will come in to play. They won't be as inclined to climb up that steep embankment and dig through the poison oak. It would be much easier to circumnavigate the thicket and try to look into it. After all, the subject is miles away from here. The better option is to give the searchers their assignment and the information that pertains to completing that assignment. That way they can focus directly on their job at hand and not have to filter out all the unnecessary and distracting information.

Also, we are generally not privy to any information about the case after our assignments have been completed and we are released from the scene. The information that we get is usually from the same sources as the rest of the world. We watch the news and read the papers. If any of us find anything, we usually email the entire team to share what we find.

One case that has been bothering me and has constantly been in the back of my mind is a high-profile case that made the news several times last year. The subject's name is Nina Reiser. She went missing after dropping her children off at her estranged husband's house and was not heard from since. Several pieces of evidence were found to indicate foul-play and her husband Hans Reiser was convicted of first degree murder even though her body had not been found. We had spent several days at different times searching the Oakland hills for evidence that may show us where she could have been buried, but continued to come up empty handed.

I ran across this news report today while searching for information about last weekend's search:

This helps bring a lot of thoughts to an end, suspicions confirmed and denied. I emailed the link to the team not that long ago. I already have had people respond back to me with a "thank you, I've been thinking about that search for a while now, wondering if they ever found anything more." I know that I'm not alone in these thoughts and concerns.

Now that little part in the back of my mind can rest, knowing that Nina's not lost any more.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


If I had to guess, I'd say that right about now Beth and Nick are driving over the Grapevine on I-5, heading to San Diego with Grammie and Grandpa to visit Becky, Tony and the girls for the Fourth of July weekend.  I'm here at work (obviously not too busy today) feeling kind of bummed and not totally patriotic. 

I'm thinking that I'm just going to stay home tomorrow night, probably watch a movie or two, get some more time into Legos Star Wars (addictive!) and maybe play radio a little bit.  It'll probably be an excellent time to try to get some antenna wires up in the trees since nobody should be around.  I might drive up the hill a little bit to a spot where I can see the river and watch the fireworks, but I don't know.  It just doesn't have the same appeal this year without Beth and Nick there to celebrate with.

Anyhow, have a happy Fourth!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Have you ever just wanted to be a jerk?

I'm getting so tired of getting hit up for change every time I leave or enter my office building.  Being in downtown Oakland, I'm not surprised that I have people asking for change, it's just the sheer number of times I'm asked each day.  I don't want to be a jerk about it, but the desire to be polite is almost completely gone, so instead of going off on someone down on the street, I'll vent here.  Below are my musings and repressed responses, wrapped in a thin coating of bitterness. 

Boy, aren't you lucky?

I've noticed that people are no longer asking for just any amount that you can/will spare.  They're specifying how much they want from you.  Apparently inflation knows no bounds either.  I've noticed that the amount keeps growing however slightly. 

It used to be "Hey buddy, do you have any change you can spare?"  Then it became a quarter.  Once I was asked specifically for 28 cents.  Today it was thirty.  Now, I can understand asking for a quarter.  It's not much and it's an easy amount to gather. 

I once was tempted to answer the quarter request with a "Sorry, no.  All I have is a nickel and two dimes.  Sorry."  I figured that that would get me a black eye, so I refrained.  Today when asked for thirty cents, I was tempted to say that I had fifty, but if he had two dimes, we'd be square.  Again the thought of a black eye helped me hold my tongue.

A couple of weeks ago, my Seattle counterpart was down to help me install new network switches after hours one night.  We left the office at about 5 to go grab dinner while the rest of everyone finished what they were doing and cleared out for the evening.  On our way back from dinner I got hit up for 50 cents.  This guy was obviously a high roller.  I couldn't help but chuckle because this was about the hundredth time I'd been asked for money that day.

"No!" I said as I walked by.

"Would you have it if I was white?"  I couldn't help but laugh out loud.

"I might have it if you weren't wearing hundred dollar shoes, a gold chain and standing outside a tobacco shop," I thought loudly.  This time the guy asking had three friends.  I know that there were two of us, but we weren't armed.  I felt lucky to get away without a black eye telling just for him no.

After getting hit up for 30 cents on my way into the building after grabbing lunch, my mind went into its usual "what if" scenario loop.  I started wondering what reaction people would have if they asked for 25/28/30/76/(whatever) cents and I pull out a huge handful of change, count out what they asked for and shove the rest back into my pocket.  If I ever get brave enough and find someone stupid enough to help me out, I might have to actually try this one out and film it to put on YouTube.  I think I'd have to pick a safer city.  I don't want to try that here in Oakland and film my death.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Field Day wrapup

Field Day was fun. While we (W6CX) didn't shatter any records as far as contacts go, we did have the best turn-out that anyone could remember, had many people walk up to find out what was going on and how to get involved, and had at least two people join the club. Not bad compared to the fact that we didn't have a single person come through our site last year!

The local Salvation Army canteen set up for the weekend and provided our meals, representatives from a couple local agencies made appearances, and we had a little 1:00 a.m. excitement when we discovered that we hadn't covered quite all the sprinkler heads. Breakdown and clean-up posed a challenge as we were all pretty tired by noon on Sunday and we were unexpectedly short a person, but everyone pitched in and worked together so it actually went very smooth and was done in no time.

Our location at Heather Farms park forced us into a smaller area than last year, but I honestly think that it made things better. There was a lot more interaction between stations which lent to a stronger sense of belonging to a common interest group instead of the sense of separation that I had last year.

To top it off, the City of Walnut Creek department of Parks and Recreation has invited us to come back next year and has offered to reserve a spot for us already, even though they don't start taking reservations until February.

Overall, I'd have to say that for the Mount Diablo Amateur Radio Club, Field Day was a huge success!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday morning excitement

Today was already going to be an interesting and exciting day. Tomorrow noon marks the beginning of Field Day. Today noon marks the beginning of setup for field day.

Although I'm already at 50 hours this week, I had to come in for the sole purpose of meeting a shipping company to get equipment shipped out that is coming off lease. Everything's ready to go and as soon as the carrier signs the bill of lading, I'm out the door.

The list of "to-dos" for today include finish (start!) gatering my radio gear, clothes, tent and jetboil (for coffee!), get a vehicle from Rod (somehow) get over to Heather Farms park in Walnut Creek to meet my buddy John, shuttle him over to OES to get one of the department vans and light tower/generator, get back to the park and set up. Unfortunately, I have no idea as of yet what time the shipper will arrive. In the past, they've been here around 10. That would suit me just fine.

Now to add to the excitement of it all: After my train left the station this morning, the driver got on the intercom and informed me that my station was closed "due to police activity" and that there was no estimated time of reopening. (Police activity isn't a big surprise in Oakland. Police inactivity would shake the foundations of the city. Let's just say that this is no Mayberry. Andy and Barney wouldn't last long around here.) No big deal. I exited at 19th street and walked the last seven blocks. I may do that more often, it was kind of nice to get a little walk in before coming into the office.

As I'm walking up the street, I see a couple of news vans parked around one of the entrances to the BART station. I decide to hit the internet and see what's happening. From the website:

Posted: Friday, 27 June 2008 8:14AM

Suspicious Backpack Closes BART at 12th in Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. (KCBS) -- BART Police, along with bomb
dogs walked all of the entrances to Oakland's 12th Street BART station this
morning, after a passenger reported an unattended backpack and reported it
to a
station manager, who opened the bag.
There was a cylinder, which
was wrapped
in some sort of paper, according to the station agent who saw
this. There was
nothing much else in the bag,” said BART Spokesman Linton
different bomb dogs then indicated that there was something
suspicious about the
bag, so now the U.C. Berkeley bomb squad, and the
Alameda County Sheriff’s bomb
squad are on scene to remove the

Trains continue to run through the station because the backpack has
been moved to another level, but the trains are not stopping.

riders are asked to enter the system at the 19th Street station to
closure, which may last until 9:30 a.m.

Fun. I may have a bomb sitting on the foundation of my 18 story building.

I take my cue from the authorities. I figure that if they're still running trains through the station, it's more precaution than anything that has caused them to close the station. If they were really worried about a bomb, they would have stopped all the trains and evacuated my building and the ones around the area. I keep checking out the windows to see what's going on down there, but continue about my morning. After all, I need coffee and I've not gotten any yet.

A couple phone calls from people that need help, a couple problems solved and the next look out the window reviels... nothing. No column of smoke, no flashy lights, no police line tape across the sairs and escalators down to the station.

A check back to the KCBS website and what was an hour ago the top headline has already moved to the bottom of the page, right above a link to a story about the parking garages in San Jose suffering lack of customers due to high gas prices.

Authorities reopened the station at around 9 a.m., when they determined that the backpack only contained hair care products.

Honestly, couldn't we come up with a more exciting ending than that? Where's the hero, clutching the ticking package as his partner races them to the edge of a pier so they could throw the bomb into the water mere seconds before it explodes, showering them in a brillaint display of water? Where's the cutting of the red (no blue!) wire as the timer steadily counts down to zero?

Please don't think I'm discrediting the work that the bomb sqad members do. Not by any means. These guys SIGN UP to do what they do. They volunteer to get between a bomb and others and make the situation safe. My hat is off to those guys. They have my deepest appreciation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Last night after dinner as Beth was reading and I was finishing my dinner, Nick decided that he wanted some grapes. He went to the fridge and got some, then wandered over to me.

"I've got grapes Daddy. Do you want one?"

"Sure," I answered.

"Here you go," he said as he dropped a grape on my plate.


"You're welcome. Do you want a grape Mommy?" Not waiting for an answer, he dropped one onto the book she was reading and it rolled down between the pages and into her lap.

"Thanks Nicky," said Mommy.

Back to the kitchen and the fridge door opens and closes, then back out to me.

"Here Daddy, now you get two. One, two," he counts them as he drops them onto my plate. "Two for Mommy," again, they roll down the pages and into her lap, "and two for Nicky. We all get two."

That's when it hit me. He had gone to the fridge to get two grapes for each of us. It wasn't that he only had six and ran out. I could tell it was intentional by the way he said it, so matter-of-factly. My three year old is doing math. That's freaking insane. I'll agree, it's not rocket science, but I couldn't have been more proud if t was.

Is there no end to how much he will amaze and surprise us?

Another high point of last night was when he earned his sixth gold star for staying dry. Mommy was getting him ready for bed, had pulled off his dry pull-up and we told him that we were proud that he had kept it dry all day.

"Go potty before I put your pull-up on for bed," she said. "You've been dry all day. If you go potty, you can get a gold star," she told him and he ran into the bathroom, got his stool and went potty all by himself. No fussing, no whining, no fit. It was so nice.

They came back and put his sixth gold star on the chart. Every sixth one covers a picture of a car. "You know what that means?"

"I get a car!"

Needless to say, it went to bed with him last night.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

camping pix last!

Away at last! After about a year of being stuck in the day to day grind that we call life, we were able to once again break free of the bonds of civilization and escape into the woods. Kind of.
Being fresh from work, basking in the aftermath of a half-day long network outage, one of the first things on my agenda was to fire up the laptop and see what kind of reception the wireless internet card was getting so I could check my work email to make sure things were still up and running. Ah, the penance of leaving work early on a Friday.

Nonetheless, here we were. The rest of the family (minus my sister) was already a day into their camping trip, having left on Thursday. I honestly didn't really do much other than relax and catch up on some sleep.

After working in Oakland for the last year, plus a short stint in San Francisco, I was surprised at how quiet it could be. You get used to the constant hustle and bustle, the blowing of horns, the wail of sirens, the people all around you. Here, all of that was gone. Things were slow and peaceful. You could hear the breeze blowing through the trees, smell the dirt and the plants. The people who passed the campsite all went out of their way to wave and greet you. Not a one of them even asked for loose change. Everyone was smiling.

As we settled down for bed on Saturday night, I could almost imagine the sounds of the Native Americans, their drums throbbing softly under their chanting as they danced around the campfires... Only I wasn't imaging them. I was really hearing them.

I remembered seeing a couple of signs on my way into the park that simply read "Elders" with an arrow pointing the way ahead. "The Mormons must be having some kind of retreat," I'd though to myself and put it out of my mind. Those weren't Mormons camped further up the mountain. I'm pretty sure of it.

Laying there I couldn't help but let my thoughts wander as I listened to the chanting. I was intrigued. What were they saying? What did it mean? Suddenly I was able to imagine being with the early pioneers, making our way across the uncharted country, risking it all in hopes of a better future. Hearing those drums and that chanting coming down the valley, over the plains. No wonder why they were intimidated by these new, unknown people. It was an ominous sound.

Pictures: My plans for the weekend were simple. Do as little as possible, relax and enjoy just hanging out with the family. Mission accomplished. The pictures, the few that I took, prove it. There aren't many and there's not much action in them.

Hanging out, eating snacks in my new chair that Aunt Jami got for me.

Playing with Grandpa's jeep.

Look how tall I am Daddy! (Now get me down, I'm stuck up here!)

Campfires at night. The perfect way to relax.

I was so warm and snuggly in my sleeping bag with Mommy next to me.

I was warm and snuggly in Aunt Jami's sleeping bag too. She wasn't too willing to share. Neither was I.

This is my current favorite picture of Nick. He was sitting on his stump watching the birdies. It only lasted a second before he wanted down so he could chase them, but it was precious. I want to be able to provide this for him: knowing that the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life isn't all that there is. There's a much larger world out there that has a billion exciting things so see and learn from, if only you take the time to stop, listen and watch.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ghetto, redefined

"Ghetto" has been abused for the last few years, to the point that it's lost it's value. Today, it reared its head and made a valiant attempt to live again.

Sitting across the aisle from me on the train tonight on my way home was the person responsible for this gasp for air from a dying word. Let me share.

I wasn't paying much attention to what was going on around me. I came down with a cold today and by the end of the day, I had nothing left in me. The doors close and the train starts to move. I notice someone sitting across the aisle in the seat facing me. She's doing her hair. No big deal.

She starts talking, but nobody is sitting next to her. Not uncommon in Oakland, I witness several one sided converations, debates and arguments every time I step out of my office doors.

"Someone tried sitting next to me. 'Can I sit here?' 'Must you?'" She laughs.

Laughter and a "That's funny," comes from two rows back on my side of the car. Great, she has a friend and they're going to talk over everybody the whole ride home. It's already obvious who her world revolves around.

That's when I notice the pile of hair on her lap. "What the...?"

I slowly realize that she's unbraiding her weave and gathering the hair in her lap. Nasty.

Now I don't know if it's real hair. I know that some people use real hair in their weaves and that just grosses me out. Somebody decided that they didn't want their hair any more and had it cut off. Somebody else decided that they just can't wait for their own hair to grow out so they buy hair from someone else's head and have another person braid it into their own hair.

Maybe it's because I'm a guy. Maybe it's because my own hair grows so fast that I can't ever seem to keep it looking nice for more than a week after I get it cut. Maybe it's just because I can't imaging being able to thoroughly wash tightly braided hair. Maybe it's just because it's nasty. Whatever the case, it's gross.

"So, how's this redefining 'ghetto' " you ask?

As we pull into the Concord station, she decides that it's time to pack up since she and her friend are getting off in Pittsburg, two stops away. She reaches down for her mirror to check her work. To make sure that she's removed an equal amount from both sides and is even, I guess. Out from under her bag, she pulls.... the sun visor from a car. She flips the mirror cover open, holds it at arm's length to check her handiwork, decides that all is well, flips the mirror closed and shoves it back into her plastic grocery bag.

Yes, you read right. She had the visor from a car for a mirror. The kind that is bolted above the windshield of your car that you flip down to keep the sun out of your eyes while you're driving. She's actually carrying the whole thing around with her so she can do her hair. Or undo her hair. Whatever.

I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to wrap up this post. What kind of insight can I give, what life lesson can be learned?


The only thing that comes to mind was my thought at the time:

"What the...?"

from boing boing, my new favorite blog

boing boing has a ton of funny articles. They have also now posted the best sentance I've ever read in a blog:
Certainly, in the Journalistic Special Olympics of blogging, criticizing another web writer's wordsmithing is a slippery slope ending in a pit full of our own weasel words, forced metaphors, slapdash punctuation and dangling participles.

Full article here:

To best appreciate it, make sure that you read their entire post before following their link.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I haven't posted in a week.

I promised pictures from camping and I've failed you.

That's lame.

My plans for today are to get a couple of computers at work going on program installations, photoshop some of the better pictures and get something posted.

The time is near.

You'll have something soon.

I don't want to fail you, my readers any more. Either of you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

I'm camping!

No really, I'm camping! My sister's still at work, but the rest of the family is here, and that's what matters! (Yes, that was just to rub it in!)


As the only IT guy in our company in North of Orange County, I support all of our Nothern California offices and field workers. Most of that work can be done remotely, so at this point that hasn't been much of an issue. I'm based in our Oakland office. We also have an office in San Jose and a small office in Sacramento. Fortunately, everything works out pretty well that I'm not spending all my time on the road.

I take the train into work in the mornings and grab a company vehicle for my travels. It generally works out pretty well as I avoid commute traffic and don't have to worry about the wear and tear on my personal vehicle. However, it seems that every time that I plan on going to the San Jose office, something comes up here in Oakland that keeps me from leaving at the time I plan. The more urgent my need to be in San Jose, or the more time critical my arrival time, the harder it is to leave Oakland.

For example, today. Everyone's up camping and I'm meeting them tonight. (See my previous post) I drove the truck into Oakland today with the plans of leaving here by 10, spending some time in the San Jose office getting someone set up on their new laptop and leave there by 1 or 2. Unfortunately as I was pulling into the garage, I got a phone call informing me that our network is down. Fortunately, it's only our WAN (internet) connection. Unfortunately, nearly everything we do requires that connection to access our corporate servers. Our phones are all VOIP, so nobody can call out as that's all internet based as well. Time cards need to be completed and turned in by 11:30 on Fridays. Yep, internet access required.

Fonrtunately, being the computer guy, I have connections. I have internet access via a cellular card. Unfortunately, my computer is being used as a timecard kiosk. ...which means I have to go.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

bus ride

Nicky finally gets to ride in Grandma and Grandpa's "bus" for real. He's taken a couple of trips around the block when they were putting it back alongside the house, but today it's for real. He's strapped into his car seat at the dining 'room' table and heading out to where we're camping this weekend.

Nicky and Mommy get to go early with Grandma and Grandpa. Daddy has to wait until tomorrow after work. Fortunately, I've got some time already 'in the bank' this week and should be able to leave from the San Jose office by about 2 or 3 ...earlier if I work through lunch.

"And another one rides the bus." That's one cool kid!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Field Day?

I realized on my last post that I'd mentioned Field Day, but didn't explain what it is. So...

What's Field Day? On the first full weekend in June, amateur radio operators nation wide all get on the air to try to contact one another while simulating an emergency set-up. Generally the idea is to get as much public exposure as possible and practice operating your radios from anything but the comfort of your home. More info can be found here:

If you're in the Bay Area, come visit us! If not, find a field day site close to you and take a look. Usually, there's a station set up for unlicensed people where anybody can sit down and give amateur radio a try. A licensed operator will sit with them and walk them through how to work a radio and how to make a contact with someone else.

"What is amateur radio?"

"What do you talk about?"

What kond of cool experiences have I had with ham radio?

Search and Rescue: I've facilitated in communication between my Search and Rescue team and the command post while looking for a missing woman in an area where communication was otherwise hard to impossible. We had one ham in the command post and myself on the top of a ridge. Communications were given to her, she relayed them to me over amateur radio and I relayed them to the field teams over the department radios. Field teams and CP were unable to communicate directly due to the deep valleys that the were searching in and the hills between them.

Satellites: I've talked to someone in San Diego through a satellite using my 5 watt hand-held radio and a small directional antenna. Sattelites travel at amazingly fast speeds. AO-51, a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite takes about ten minutes to travel from horizon to horizon. To me, being able to contact someone over 400 miles away with less power than it takes to power
two of those little Christmas light bulbs is pretty cool. Doing it through a satellite orbiting in outer space is that much cooler.

HF: I've talked to an operator in Japan using only 100 watts and a piece of wire about 50 feet long as an antenna. (That's the same amount of power that you probably use to light your front porch.)

IRLP: The Internet-Radio Linking Project was started to allow long distance communications using VOIP (voice over internet protocol). You may be familiar with Skype, Vonage, etc. that allow you to call someone from your computer and talk to them without using the phone. IRLP will allow ou to do that without using your computer either. I've sat in my back yard and talked
to a friend in Maine over my radio. My signal went from my radio, to a repeater radio on the top of our local mountain, through the internet to a radio in Maine and out to my friend Tom. Again, this was done using less than two Christmas tree bulbs' worth of power.

What is HF? HF, or High Frequency bands are some of the frequencies reserved for amateur radio operators. While most other radio users have designated frequencies that they're allowed to operate on, they're not allowed to use any other frequencies. Hams have the benefit of being able to use any frequency within several frequency bands. Think of it this way: In a rainbow,
you can see all the colors that are in the visible spectrum. Most radio users (police and fire departments, television and radio stations, even your cell phones) can only use frequencies designated to them. Say the local police department can use only indigo, the fire department blue, tv stations can use yellow, radio stations green, and cell phone companies can use purple. None of them can use the whole section of their color though, only a specific, extremely narrowly defined portion of their color. The ham bands, however can in contrast use the entire red and orange colors and parts of the other colors as well. Hams have many frequencies to pick from, using whichever is the best suited to the distance that we want to communicate across.

Want to learn more or even experience ham radio for yourself? Visit your local field day site, talk to the people there and ask to sit down and operate.

"How can I find a field day site?" Click here and enter your home address:

If you visit a site, make sure that you listen for W6CX. That's our club call sign. I'll be operating on the 15 and 160 meter bands.

I hope to hear you on the air!

Good weekend

Last weekend was a good weekend. We got to spend lots of that "good, quality family time" together. You may have heard of it. Unfortunately with the pace that life runs at, it's easy to forget to stop and just hang out and have fun together.

Saturday, I met some of my ham radio friends out at Heather Farms Park in Walnut Creek for an initial survey of what will be our site for Field Day. It wasn't easy since the Walnut Creek Arts and Wine festival was parked directly on top of where we are going to set up. There's lots fo trees for shade and antenna wire, lots of room for camping and we're right next to the playground which will be good for public exposure, but less than ideal for noise levels. This looks like it will be a much better site than up on top of Mount Diablo as far as community interaction goes.

Beth, Nick and I went to the Arts and Wine festival on Sunday. We looked at art, saw some wine (Beth can't drink it. We think she's allergic to sulfur) and let Nicky play on the blow-up jungle gym and jumpy house. He also let me know that he wanted to "head over that way for a minute" to look at the cars. (...the things they pick up!)

It's so great to see him feeling so well. I'm glad that we got his surgery done when we did. I didn't realize how much his hernia was slowing him down. Looking back, it was probably bothering him long before we even suspected something was wrong. It makes me so happy to see him running and climbing and jumping with all the other kids.

Unfortunately we didn't have the camera with us. It's still hiding at Beth's work somewhere (I hope!).

Next weekend: Camping! Pictures to follow.

Last Friday's fortune cookie advises: "If you want to get a sure crop with a big yield, sow wild oats." (But Honey, my fortune cookie said to. Yeah, RIGHT!)

Saturday's: "Be cautious in your financial dealings." (Yes, Dear.)

Last Tuesday's: "Advice given to you will be well worth following." (My Mom used to tell me to go play in traffic. I'll pass.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Big Boy Bed!

Nicky got his first real Big Boy bed!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

blogger: hacked(ish)

Since I signed up for a blogger account, I've been fighting with it to get it to display my header picture. Most people can just click on "Edit" in the header area and upload a picture. That wouldn't work for me. I was close enough to moving to another blogging provider that I went and created a Wordpress account, uploaded my header and posted a test post. If they hadn't killed the quality of my graphic, I'd be posting there right now. Unfortunately for Wordpress, and fortunately for Blogger (like either have anything to gain from my presence!) that ticked me off even more than not being able to use my image at all.

Being stubborn, I decided to spend whatever time it took to get it right. With a little suggestion from Beth, I figured out what I needed hack to get it to work: I had to change my header text to be one pixel tall black characters in a one pixel tall header container, expand the main container to 800px by 200px, and resize the body and sidebar containers accordingly.

Apparently I'm now learning to code in XML. whee! More changes are ahead, I'm sure.